In fall of 2011 Adrian Ciucci called up longtime friend Tommy Booker and from opposite corners of the country they decided to formulate The Southern Belles. Drummer Raphael Katchinoff hopped on board from the start, and they were later joined by bassist Andrew Carper to complete their sound of psychedelic rock n’ roll with a southern twist. After playing around 150 shows on the road this year, including a set at Lockn’ Festival, the Richmond-natives are seeing and hearing their hard work pay off.
The Belles’ performance at Lockn’ in September was certainly a notch on the belt for the group, who was one of just three regional bands to earn a Rockn’ To Lockn’ slot on the festival playbill alongside legends including the “Core Four” of the Grateful Dead, Carlos Santana, Robert Plant and so many more.
After booking extensive tour dates and working to release their sophomore album, “Close to Sunrise,” this summer, the guys were finally able to soak it all in at Lockn’. In an interview at the festival, they collectively described their experience there, amongst so many of their idols and influences, as “life-culminating.”
“Everything in trying to run a band moves fast – super fast,” Ciucci said. “You have to be willing to say yes and go, and it’s rare when you’re able to notice the awesomeness that’s happening. It’s hard to be in the moment, and we’re all feeling very much in the moment right now.” Carper, Katchinoff and Booker nodded in agreement.
“I definitely gave my mom a call,” Carper said. Since Lockn’, the band has continued to tour the region, nurturing the atmosphere and growing fan base that surrounds The Southern Belles while collaborating on stage with artists like Tom Hamilton’s American Babies.
Despite the buzz quickly sprouting around their name, The Southern Belles are a refreshingly down-to-earth group of guys. Much like the connotation of hospitality in an actual southern belle, the band loyally caters to their Richmond friends – just without the hoop skirts. Every first Friday for the past three years this December, they’ve played at Richmond’s vibey hub called The Camel. These shows have lately been filling The Camel to capacity, and some locals think that The Southern Belles should take it to a bigger venue, but the band just can’t part ways. “It’s like our home, but with taps” Booker said.
Alternatively, The Southern Belles know how to capture more than just their hometown crowd. Between Booker’s soulful key slapping, Katchinoff’s power on the drums, the effortless alliance up front between Ciucci and Carper, and the ever-improving vocals of each member, The Southern Belles are made for the live experience. The ground they’re able to cover musically in just one song is apparent in tracks like “Jungle” off of their newest album, which goes from a mellow guitar entrance and easy lyrics to a hyped up groove with psychedelic keyboard climbs and more of a rock tempo. They describe “Close to Sunrise” as “an evolution of the first album” – a very obvious shift in not necessarily style but in approach. “We’re a better band than we were,” Ciucci said.
Both of The Belles’ albums were recorded by Richmond’s Bryan Walthall at Sound of Music Recording Studios. Given that they went through the same studio and process for the second album as they did for the first, the band was more comfortable during the recording of “Close to Sunrise.” For the duration of the album’s two-week recording session in February, there was a period of snow storms and inclement weather that forced the guys to hunker down in the studio. “There’s an element of us sort of moving in there for two weeks that, at least to us, is tangible,” Carper said.
When crafting songs, the band explained, Ciucci typically comes up with an idea, but according to him, “it doesn’t always have to be that way. It has started generally with me, but it almost doesn’t matter where it starts. We round table every song we do, so it’s everybody’s song by the time people hear it.”
A relatively new song they’ve played a handful of times this year called “Everywhere” is decidedly the band’s most collaborative piece yet, and the only song they’ve spent so much time on behind closed doors before performing it live. “It’s so fucking hard to play,” Carper said. With “Everywhere,” The Southern Belles are pioneering a complexity in their songs that is sure to unravel as they grow together and continue to explore their own talent.
Catch The Southern Belles this fall as they tour throughout the region.
Written by Meredith Warfield